Algae-based biofuels could rule the future–if we can lower production costs. A Seattle-based startup called Bionavitas thinks the solution to producing cost-efficient algae is Light Immersion Technology, which uses pencil-shaped acrylic rods to bring light to algae and stimulate growth.
The technology overcomes the “self-shading” problem that has hindered previous efforts at producing algae on a large scale. As algae grow, they become so dense that they block the light necessary for continued growth. Light Immersion Technology bypasses this issue and enables algae growth in open ponds up to a meter deep–a 10 to 12 time increase in yield over other methods, the company claims.
Of course, Bionavitas is not the only company attempting to lower algae production costs. Solix Biofuels claims that it can cut the cost of growing algae by 90% using light-absorbing bioreactors made out of flat plates, and Solazyme takes light out of the equation altogether by growing algae in the dark.
Bionavitas’ fuel rods have yet to be field tested, so we may have to wait a while to find out if the company will move ahead of competing algae cost-lowering efforts.